The 3 Click Rule

As the name suggest, the 3 click rule is based around the idea of the number of clicks needed to go from one place on your web site, to another. It is widely believed that web surfers now-a-days are in such a hurry that they don't want to have to keep clicking through a site to find the information that they want, and that most will give up after 3 clicks if there is no indication that they are heading in the right direction for the information.

Clear Navigation

To help your visitors find what they want it is essential to have clear, concise and carefully planned navigation. If your contact details are hidden in the "misc" sub menu of the "products" menu, then how will your visitor know which way to go if they want to find your postal address and the products link is one of about 20 different unrelated choices on your main page? The chances are they will click around for a little while, try all the logical choices until they either find it or get bored and go somewhere else.

Try to avoid navigational links that are totally unrelated to the page that they link to, and don't make the meaning of the link unclear, as you will confuse your visitors. For example, if you saw the word "Affection" as a link on a web site, where do you think it would go? To a page about the owners family, friends or pets? Perhaps some cute pictures? A lonely hearts column? Or maybe an appeal to help some charity?

If you use links that confuse your visitors and they are in a hurry to find the information that you may or may not have, then they may not even want to stick around to find it! A good site structure with a logical order can go far to capture their interest, and while they may be wondering where "such and such" a link will take them - most will not want to waste their time trying to find out.

Make it easy

Good navigation is clear, concise and easy to use, but even with all the good intentions in the world there will still be a few visitors that experience some kind of problem or other finding the information they want from your site. Quite often visitors will not want to waste time clicking on the menus unless it is likely to get them where they want to go - but there are other ways that you can make it much easier for them with a little thought and careful planning.

One of the easiest ways to let your visitors know where they are is to provide a site map. It does not need to be a graphic, but if your site is small enough to create one then it might be worth doing to show the overall structure of your site. Where a graphic is not possible, then a list of links with a quick description of each page would also prove to be an asset. Make the most of the HTML listing elements to nest your list of links to reflect the different sections and the pages in them (if this is applicable to your site structure).

If your site is large then you may also want to consider adding a search engine to it, providing your visitors with a search box on every page means that they can jump from one place to another without having to follow the logical links that may or may not link the two pages. A well-placed site search engine that is easily accessible shows your visitors that you care enough to want to help them get the most from your site...

Just think about this scenario for a minute. You want to buy a particular CD and you go to two online stores, the first has a search box embedded in their menu bar with the main page area offering special deals. The second has a list of categories but nothing that obviously fits with the CD you are looking for, but has no search box... Which one would you use first?